• Kyodo


Foreign dignitaries enjoyed a rare show combining different Japanese traditional arts on Wednesday at a banquet following the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito the previous day.

During the evening event, hosted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie, at the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo, A-list actors from three different traditional arts — kyogen, kabuki and bunraku — performed together in a single play.

Kyogen actor Nomura Mansai, 53, kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo, 41, and bunraku puppet master Yoshida Tamao, 66, performed “Sambaso,” a play celebrating an ancient harvest ritual.

The play was followed by a noh masked theater performance with a parent-child succession of lions as its theme.

The banquet came a day after Emperor Naruhito proclaimed his enthronement before an audience of leaders and representatives of Japan, as well as those of more than 180 other countries, in a traditional ceremony held at the Imperial Palace.

He ascended to the chrysanthemum throne on May 1 after his father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, stepped down the day before in the first abdication by a Japanese monarch in about two centuries.

Mansai said in a recent interview with Kyodo News that he hoped the guests would “feel the diversity and coexistence of Japanese art and culture” through the traditional plays.

“Japanese art and culture are highly diverse,” said Mansai, explaining that forms emerging later have not defied the old ones, but rather have coexisted with them.

He also expected that the performance of “Shakkyo” (“The Stone Bridge”) by noh actor Kanze Kiyokazu, 60, who studied with Emperor Naruhito from elementary school through high school, and his son Saburota, 20, would highlight the history of succession from father to son.

“Shakkyo” features lion-like mythical creatures by a stone bridge on a mountain known as the holy place of Manjushri, the Buddhist bodhisattva of wisdom. The play is based on a legend in which a father lion deliberately pushes his cub into a ravine to force him to crawl back up and become stronger.

Noh and kyogen were established around the 14th century, while kabuki traces its origin to dances of the early 17th century. Bunraku evolved from puppet plays from the late 17th century.

Mansai, who is also a supervisor of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics opening and closing ceremonies, said the banquet’s basic concepts of diversity and coexistence represent what he wishes to convey at the sporting events.

In a speech at the event, Abe pledged to contribute to world peace, touching on the start of the new era.

“We are determined to further contribute to the promotion of world peace and prosperity, as well as mutual understanding, in this Reiwa Era, hand in hand with the international community,” Abe told the attendees.

The previous banquet in 1990, held to celebrate former Emperor Akihito’s enthronement, also featured kabuki and noh performances.

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